POSTED: Thursday, June 27, 2013 - 9:15pm
UPDATED: Thursday, June 27, 2013 - 9:22pm
El Paso, TX (KTSM) — It has been three years since El Paso County has had a permanent chief medical examiner. Doctor Juan Contin has been filling this role. But as an Austin watchdog has pointed out, his autopsies may not even be legal and in the long run a may be costing the taxpayers more money.
This table is an eerie sight for a number of people, but for one man, who we’ll call John. The memories triggered by it are especially painful. "What was going through your mind when she passed away? You really don't want me to tell ya. I wanted to join her,” John said. The table was where his wife of more than 30 years was examined after her death.
"That... it hurt. You had your mate for all these years and then all of a sudden snap your finger and she's gone,” he explained. Like most El Pasoans John received his wife's death certificate a couple of weeks later. "And shortly thereafter I get the revised documents saying it has been revised." He received an amendment to the original death certificate.
"It's one of those, like what's going on here? Now, all of a sudden I got four or five maybe six different reasons of her death,” John said.
While an amendment to a death certificate is legal a document consultant out of Austin says he isn't surprised by John's situation and that John's wife's death certificate may be one of many that are invalid.
"There is no medical examiner's office in Texas that is statutory and constitutional,” David Fisher said.
In fact, David Fisher says all of the death certificates within the last three years are illegal since the offices that exist operate outside the state's jurisdiction. Fisher filed a complaint with the Texas Medical Board. That means the county may have to retry all of its murder cases within the last three years."And that is what confronts the citizens of El Paso County. As everybody knows, it's very expensive to try someone for murder,” Fisher explained.
Fisher claims Dr. Juan Contin, the current Chief Medical Examiner, pleaded guilty to insurance fraud in 1991. Which he claims makes him ineligible to hold his current position. The county judge says Mr. Fisher's claims may sound serious but won't hold up in court. "The decisions that we're making going forward about how we're going to invest and how the staffing is going to happen I think will create a pathway for our medical examiner’s office to be nationally accredited and I think even then Mr. Fisher will criticize,” Judge Veronica Escobar exclaimed.
Fisher is the same person who filed a complaint against Dr. Paul Shrode in 2007 for lying about his credentials. The county eventually fired Shrode in 2010. "We had a different reason for separating from Dr. Shrode,” the Judge said.
Fisher also filed a complaint about the county's hiring of Dr. Khalid Jaber as their new chief earlier this year because he doesn't have u-s citizenship which fisher says is required. The county ended up not hiring Jaber but did not elaborate on the issue except for saying - "it just became clear that the fit is not a good fit for either party,” Escobar explained weeks earlier.
"They are violating the laws and constitution of the state and if, by some magic, it's suddenly all going to all go away, it's not,” Fisher said.
However, if and when any changes takes place to this office. John says it won't matter to him.
"No matter what we do, that piece of paper is not going to do anything. So, all I can do is move on,” John said.